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Black Label Society Mafia

By Chris Hawkins, Contributor
Monday, March 7, 2005 @ 10:16 AM


(Artemis Records)

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What else can be said of Zakk Wylde that hasn’t been said already? Plenty! Last year’s Hangover Music was ignored by way too many folks, and at least mainstream “rock radio” in this area, the Southeast. It’s a crime, especially when it can be difficult often-times to believe he’s from Jersey. He’s got the soul of Duane Allman, Greg’s voice, and of course, is the only true successor of Randy Rhoads. If you don’t believe that then stop reading this and put on your favorite Limp Bizkit record.

While Hangover Music was more in the vein of Jar of Flies, Lies and even Book of Shadows, the March 8th release of MAFIA will see Black Label Society returning to the heavy stuff. Indeed, this new one showcases the same intensity as its predecessors, and with it, a more profound edge in overall songwriting. The songs simply sound more mature. While still remaining true to riff-oriented heavy metal, Zakk has added a polish on top of everything that allows the music to ebb and flow in a truly memorable fashion.

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MAFIA also features more up-tempo tracks. Many, such as “Say What You Will” and “Electric Hellfire” just simply smoke. It’s true metal. You can’t help but bang your head, drink beer and break stuff. Isn’t that the point? My initial favorites were the first track, “Fire It Up” and track 6, “You Must Be Blind.” “Fire It Up” has an amazingly sick bass line that sets it off delivered by James Lomenzo, bassist from the Pride and Glory days. “Fire It Up” offers a pissed-off, ultra-catchy groove that could only be Black Label, and could easily be on the radio. There are a couple slower ballads on here, “Dirt on the Grave” and “In This River.” Both prove Zakk owes as much to Elton John and Ray Charles as he does to Ozzy and Ronnie Van Zandt. “Dirt on the Grave” contains perhaps the best solo on the entire record, one in which Zakk burns up his nylon string in the tradition of Paco de Lucia and Al Dimeola. Outstanding!

The point here is that Black Label Society has once again proven several things. First, the band isn’t just a side project, but rather a community of musicians committed to delivering the purest, never-watered-down metal for many albums and many years to come. Also, the technique, the shredding, and the squeals are there, but do not over-shadow the true intention: the song comes first. Overall, that is what has to set Zakk Wylde higher than so many other virtuosos out there. He knows where to put the hooks, makes memorable choruses, and still manages to blaze away up and down the neck. No one can afford to pass up on MAFIA.

* * * * 1/2


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